Endangered Memories of a Wallflower | Teen Ink

Endangered Memories of a Wallflower

January 14, 2014
By Nora2012 BRONZE, Tenafly, New Jersey
Nora2012 BRONZE, Tenafly, New Jersey
4 articles 13 photos 11 comments

Favorite Quote:
"One who throws mud has no ground."

I have a notebook from fifth grade. Every page is filled with blurry sketches or crooked handwriting, but the book’s cover is made of hard black plastic that’s durable enough to keep the thick smudged pages in decent condition. I pull this artifact onto my lap, flip through its pages, and delve into my memories.

My family lived in New York, for most of my elementary school years. By the end of fourth grade, we decided to move to New Jersey for both my and my sister’s education. However, the logic was faulty; I was transitioning into fifth grade, which meant I was going to get used to a new school, but graduate in the same year. Then again, education was very important. So on the day before the first day of school, my mother took me to see my fifth grade teacher, Ms. Doyle, whose round face easily crinkled into a smile. She gave me a list of school supplies—pencils, folders, and notebooks, including a drawing journal—which I accepted without a word. She must have thought that I was too quiet because next she showed me the class list, pointed out two students who lived on my street, and said I should probably befriend them.

I had mixed feelings about making new friends—slightly excited, but mostly overwhelmed. For all of my childhood so far, my relationships with other ten-year-olds were slightly detached at best. The friends I had had in New York were people who I ate lunch with, people whose birthday parties I went to, and people who were generally like me—quiet and studious. Friendship was something that just happened, generated because I was around certain people every day, like an easy bond with a sibling. Making friends was an entirely new concept especially because my previous friendships weren’t extraordinarily close.

On the first day of school, I was struck by alienation. I was with the most diverse group of strangers; they were of all kinds of ethnicities, from Korean to Jewish. As I cautiously sat down at the desk that had my nametag and a jar of dirt, I noticed that most of the kids already knew each other because they talked exclusively to one another. Under their noisy chatter, I felt so isolated and intimidated for being the only one silent. For the first time, I painfully understood the obvious: people didn’t become friends automatically. Needless to say, this wallflower didn’t integrate well. I kept to myself as I sketched and wrote in my journal. And while other students ate lunch together in groups, I sat alone at the end of the table.

The first pages of the journal are labeled “Day 1” and are filled with sketched jars of dirt, seeds and sand. Beside the drawings, written in a crooked and uneven hand, are observations such as “I noticed that bird seeds floated” and “Ms. Doyle said the soil was moist.”

Fifth graders were also assigned lockers that were conveniently situated outside the room, each one adorned with a pink paper cupcake containing a name. My locker, which stuck to the frame, would only open with a bang and a rattle and nothing softer. It was the last one down the hall and away from all civilization. Only one person was near my locker—a girl who introduced herself to me as Jahnvi. I was astounded at how friendly she was. Her confident disposition made the first day of school sound easy, so I went for it and I introduced myself too.

Weeks later Jahnvi asked me to come over to her house. I was taken aback. Every day after school I usually kept to myself. I realize now that it should have bothered me, but back then it really didn’t. I was busy with piano or gymnastics or homework almost daily. I didn’t really know what having a “play date” meant. I mean, I was the awkward, introverted new kid.

A quarter way through the journal a page is titled: Endangered Animals of NJ. And underneath is a list that reads: Boxed Turtle, Karner Blue Butterfly, Barred Owl, American Toad, etc. Below, is a question that reads: What can we do to help? And at the very bottom of the page, signed Jahnvi in curly script, is a statement: Make a book about endangered animals.

We started to save the world, one species at a time, in Jahnvi’s kitchen. We researched organisms of different categories: reptiles, mammals, fish, birds and butterflies. Education was important. Now I wonder if having a common objective was what brought us together. Or maybe we were both looking for a friend even if we didn’t know it back then.

I have a notebook from fifth grade. The last page is called: Ideas for the Book. Right underneath are titles: Nature and Its Needs, Endangered Days, Animals in Trouble. I keep it on my lowest shelf, but I make sure its hard black plastic cover keeps the thick smudged pages in decent condition.

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